Once upon a time not very long ago there was a band that would have been perfect for Music City Roots even if their name was calculated to give the Loveless Cafe crew a culinary heart attack. The Biscuit Burners were a neo-traditional band out of Asheville, NC, which landed in all kinds of prestigious places, from the BBC to Mountain Stage and a bunch of great festivals. Perhaps you saw them.
We’ve already had one former Biscuit Burner on the show in the person of Odessa Jorgenson, singer and fiddler in the band Bearfoot (and spontaneous guest backup singer just last week). And now we welcome another femme fatale who was there at the band’s origins. Shannon Whitworth branched out as a solo artist about four years ago, which placed a spotlight on her truly remarkable and original voice, showcased her as a songwriter and let her venture beyond the old-time sound of the band.
“It was confusing at first and then all of a sudden the writing just started taking over, and next thing I knew I was recording,” she told me recently. “I found some great guys to play with and we consolidated into the band we are now. It’s been amazing. I think everything was meant to be.”
Whitworth visits us just a week after releasing her second album, a project she says is even more “transparent” as to her intent and outlook. Called Waterbound, it retains her acoustic grounding while letting her find a contemporary place all her own. Plunky clawhammer banjo is decorated with mystic sounding loops and blips, and steel guitar gets rich reverb that gives the whole project an atmosphere like an impending thunderstorm. Where her first disc No Expectations could have gone in the bluegrass bin comfortably, my iTunes aptly tags the new one “unclassifiable.” Critics and fans have justly praised her singing, which has a husky and rich quality, like Gillian Welch and Shelby Lynne crossed with some 1960s jazz diva. And her relaxed but astute phrasing gives the project that final measure of sophistication that will make it a keeper years from now.
Besides Shannon, we’ve got a well-rounded show with some deep country music and our first ever band with no instruments. We’ll be welcoming Derek Hoke, a tasty, throwbacky singer-songwriter from Nashville who’s thumbing his way down the road cleared by Greg Garing, BR549 and Chris Scruggs. His terrific current album Goodbye Rock N Roll is a bright, dance-hall worthy passle of twang and blues. Hoke’s got a smooth vocal style and the songs will grab you. See his website for a bunch of great videos full of Nashville music-scene friends.
I’ve been hearing buzz on Ben Glover for more than a year, and much of it comes from admiring fellow musicians. A native of Northern Ireland, he was smitten by Bob Dylan and launched a songwriter’s life as a teenager. His newest CD Through the Noise, Through The Night was made in East Nashville with musical mastermind Nielson Hubbard in the producer’s chair. Apparently he’s been co-writing with our very recent guest Mary Gauthier, and we think you’ll hear a similar attention to detail and sincerity in his work.
Carey Hudson will bring a sharper edge and backcountry soul to this week’s show. He founded the fab band Blue Mountain and then embarked on a solo career in the early 2000s. A denizen of Mississippi, he borrows from the blues but isn’t bound by anything. There’s a character-driven approach to his songs, which are delivered with a directness that bespeaks experience and deep comfort in his role as interpreter of lives and times. And we’ll round out our well-roundedness with an appearance by Sonos, an a cappella sextet from Los Angeles. Surprising in their diversity, their covers of everything from Michael Jackson to Fleet Foxes have made them favorites of the music and cultural press. One publication even was wowed by their “sexual tension.” So this we gotta hear.
We’ll have fresh, unburned biscuits for you too.